Joseph O’Brien insists he would have no qualms about taking on the best over a mile once more with Australia following his thrilling victory in Saturday’s Investec Derby.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt was narrowly denied by Night Of Thunder and Kingman in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on his penultimate start and took the step up to a mile and a half in his stride with a dominant display at Epsom.
Night Of Thunder and subsequent Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Kingman look set to lock horns again in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and while Australia is highly unlikely to turn up in Berkshire following his Derby romp, O’Brien jnr would be confident of beating both in a rematch.
He said: “When we heard about the forecast for Saturday, we’d have had no qualms about taking him out and taking on the other two horses [Night Of Thunder and Kingman] in the St James’s Palace. I would have really fancied him to win.
“We’ll never know if I’d been drawn with the other horses whether I’d have beaten them or not [in the 2000 Guineas], but I certainly think I would.
“He’s got a serious amount of pace. We’ve made no secret of that. He definitely has seven-furlong pace – no doubt. I travelled as well as anything in the Guineas. I was cantering throughout the whole race yesterday and you can literally ride the horse any way. He’s very uncomplicated.”
The jockey admitted the rain-softened ground and the step up in trip were minor concerns prior to the premier Classic, but those worries soon evaporated once the stalls opened.
O’Brien said: “It’s an unbelievable feeling [to win the Derby]. I only had two concerns really. One was the ground, but once we’d walked the track we were quite happy. A lot of the rain that had been forecast didn’t come.
“The second [concern] was the mile and a half. He shows a lot of speed and his run in the Guineas was a massive run in what was probably a very good Guineas. He’s got a very good attitude and relaxes well. He seemed to get the trip pretty well.”
Australia was O’Brien’s second Derby winner following the similarly impressive display of Camelot two years ago, a horse who had previously won the Guineas and came mighty close to completing the Triple Crown in the St Leger.
“They’re two very good horses. I suppose form-wise there was a bit more depth to the Derby this year,” said the jockey.
“Camelot was a brilliant horse and it’s very hard to compare them, but Australia is a special horse.”
Roger Varian was delighted to report Kingston Hill in good shape the morning after his tremendous run in defeat in the Derby.
Last year’s Racing Post Trophy winner finished a slightly disappointing eighth on his seasonal reappearance in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, but stepped up his game considerably in Epsom’s premier Classic to finish a clear second behind Australia.
A rematch could be on the cards in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh on 28 June.
Trainer Varian said: “It was a great run. He has backed up the form of his two-year-old win in the Racing Post Trophy and proved he is up to mixing it with the best.
“He got the trip well and Andrea [Atzeni] gave him a lovely ride. We have no excuses – we were beaten by a better horse on the day and we are incredibly proud of his performance.
“He seems fine this morning – he has a wonderful constitution; has eaten up and been for a pick of grass.
“I’ll see how he is over the next few days before making a firm plan but at this stage the Irish Derby would be under consideration.”
Varian was also pleased with the performance of Group One-winning mare Ambivalent on Saturday’s card after she finished third in the Coronation Cup.
He said: “The daughter of Authorized has hit new levels this year and could be one for an international campaign later in the year.”
Also on Saturday, P J McDonald landed the £60,000 toteScoop6 Edinburgh Cup at Musselburgh on Richard Fahey-trained Hesketh Bank.
The Irishman, who won the 2007 Scottish National aboard Hot Weld, brought the 33-1 chance with a perfectly-timed run to pip Master Of Finance by a neck.
McDonald said: “This is one of my biggest wins since I switched to the Flat and these are the days you savour.
“Scotland has always been a very good place for me.
“This horse was very green and I had to straighten him out. He’s had very little racing and should improve – he’s probably better than the bare result and I’m delighted.”
Keith Dalgleish-trained Ko Cache, the smallest horse on parade by some margin, may end up at Royal Ascot for the Queen Mary Stakes after she sprung a 33-1 upset in the Edinburgh Castle Stakes.